The author, surfing O.B. Jetty
On March 17, at the Ocean Beach Jetty, I had just caught a wave that nobody else was close to catching. After my ride, I paddled back to the lineup and another surfer told me, "That's it...you're done catchin' waves here in O.B." I asked him, "What's your problem? And, anyways, these waves don't have your name written on them." He replied, "I'm a local here, and me and buddies will see to that." I told him that I didn't give a damn if he was a local or not, and if he had a problem with me catching waves we could handle it right there, with or without his buddies.
So, I started to paddle for a wave and he began trying to cut me off. At that point, I got off my board in about waist- to chest-high water to confront him (the waves weren't big). He got off his board and held it, saying he would stick me in the eye with it. He began to make the first move, and I punched him in the face. That stopped him from going any further. He said, "Let's take it the beach." I said, "That's fine."
I gradually made my way back to shore. I saw him walk up to a lady on Dogs' Beach and begin using her cell phone. I learned later that he had called up some buddies and the police.
I didn't confront him when I got out of the water. Instead, I made my way back to the parking lot, where I had seen another surfer and a few other guys from the lineup. I asked them if they knew who the guy was. One of them said, "Yeah, he's a local."
As I began walking to my car, the instigator began taunting me and telling me not to leave. I told him I wasn't leaving, that I was just going to change out of my wetsuit. I figured that the police might be on their way.
Once I got to my car, I called the police to let them know that I had been in an altercation with another surfer in the water. As I was on the phone, they arrived. I explained to them in detail what had happened and that there were witnesses. Another surfer that had seen the incident walked toward me and the officers and told the officers that I hadn't done anything wrong. So they questioned him alone to see if what I had said was true. (In their interview, they learned that racial slurs had been used while I was out of earshot -- I'm African-American.)
Once they verified that all the information was true, they went back and talked to the instigator.
Afterward, the police officers told me of the racial slurs that had been used, and so the incident would be classified as a hate crime. The officers didn't cite me for punching the guy because I was the victim of a hate crime. I didn't see the officers cite the instigator. They said a detective would follow up on the case, but I've yet to be contacted.
The police said I should be the bigger man and maybe find another place to surf, but I said that if did that then that would leave the wrong impression. I stated that this is a public beach and we all have the right to enjoy the outdoors free from territorial predators. I decided to zip up my wetsuit and paddle back out because the waves had gotten better.
Just to let other surfers know, in the water I usually give up more waves to others just to earn respect. Surfing shouldn't result in physical altercations that leave others talking smack, bloodied and bruised. I'd rather hit the other lip, if you know what I mean.
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